SAERA Conference Focuses on Equity and Access to Quality Education
Equity, access and quality in basic education comprised the focus of Professor Shireen Motala’s presidential address at the 2nd South African Education Research Association (SAERA) Conference held in Durban recently.
Delegates from various institutions, associations and various stakeholders attended the conference which had the theme: “Researching Education: Future Directions”.
Motala’s paper, which appeared in the latest Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) publication on the State of the Nation, debated the gains and challenges made in the country’s education system since 1994.
With the 2015 target date for meeting the Education for All goals imminent, education quality and reform remained key South African development challenges, explained Motala, the first President of SAERA which was formed last year.
‘The democratic government which came into being in South Africa in 1994 has shown its commitment to education for all, in part by producing numerous policy documents intended to ensure equitable and universal access to meaningful learning opportunities,’ said Motala.
‘Education ministers since 1994 have contributed to education reform, each with a distinct emphasis. Since 2009, a fourth phase has been under way, with new policies emerging and significant changes in how the education system is managed on a national level.
According to Motala, several trends can be identified during the fourth phase, among them the back to basics approach, which focused on the Action Plan to 2014 - Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025 - which established key output goals, supported by guidelines which advocated a more utilitarian approach to education.
‘The separation of basic education and Higher Education at national departmental level has led to more focused attention to skills development, as evidenced in the National Skills Development Strategy III 2011–2016 and the Green Paper for Post-School Education and Training.’
While gains had been made, 17 years after the first democratic elections, research revealed that South African learners were far from mastering basic and minimum competencies across the curriculum, said Motala. While the state had a mandate to achieve both equity and quality, the evidence showed that the state had succeeded in achieving a degree of the former, but not the latter.
‘It is the poorest and the most marginalised among these learners who are especially affected by poor-quality education. Most learners in South Africa enrol in and complete primary education, despite numerous barriers to success, and even though substantial early childhood education and pre-schooling provision remain to be achieved.
‘A number of strategies have been put in place to address the many intractable problems in education reform and the delivery of quality education but, as always, policy is one thing, implementation another. It is apparent that necessary conditions for the delivery of quality education are adequate finance and human resources, involvement and a sense of ownership by role-players, regular monitoring and evaluation, and sustained effort,’ she concluded.
The Conference was organised by School of Education academics, with Professor Michael Samuel chairing the local organising committee. The committee also included: Dr Vimolan Mudaly, Dr Carol Bertram, Dr Ronicka Mudaly, Dr Ansurie Pillay, Dr Daisy Pillay and Dr Promise Makhosazane Nkosi.UKZNdabaOnline